Liberals detail challenges of online organizing while Dems are in power

After using online campaigning to propel themselves to electoral victories in 2008, liberals are navigating the difficult task of organizing while their party holds a majority.


"When Democrats weren't in power, it was much easier to organize around 'no'," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His organization is dedicated to electing liberals and has played an active role in primary challenges to centrist Democrats like Sen. Blanche Lincoln, (R-Ark.)

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Green told Hillicon Valley his organization has remained largely on the outside of the traditional political establishment, allowing it to remain true to the goals of its 400,000 members who are mainly focused on economic and populist issues such as a public option for healthcare insurance.

Technology is still better on the left, said Chris Lundberg, chief executive of Salsa Labs, which provides back-end support and services for progressive political campaigns. Lundberg added that both parties have their own strengths and approaches to innovation, contrasting the GOP's top-down approach to the left's more open-source methods.

"The GOP is good at finding one thing and doing it really well," Lundberg said. "On the left we're good at coming up with 10,000 ideas and letting the best come up to the surface."

Dan Mintz of MoveOn.org said his organization has increasingly used crowdsourcing to give volunteers more responsibility and ensure resources are used as effectively as possible. For example, traditionally campaign volunteers spend their time stuffing envelopes, knocking on doors or making phone calls.

But MoveOn has turned over tasks including technical support and reading through emails to volunteers with experience in those areas. By doing so they are able to ensure professional staff spend their time on tasks that cannot be handed over.

Mintz also said he recognized many of the growing pains currently being experienced by the Tea Party movement and acknowledged a personal affinity for the anti-government crowd, whose energy he said is real.

"People are still bringing crazy signs to rallies that get them in a lot of trouble with media," Mintz said. "I think they’re growing up, figuring out how to congeal."